Brighton and Hove Albion 2-4 Arsenal: Ruthless Gunners go seven points clear

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Bukayo Saka scored after only 66 seconds as ruthless Arsenal beat Brighton and Hove Albion 4-2 to go seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Draws for Manchester City and Newcastle United earlier on New Year’s Eve gave the Gunners a chance to stretch their lead at the summit.

Mikel Arteta’s side ended 2022 in style at the Amex Stadium, Saka setting them on their way early on and Martin Odegaard adding a second goal in the first half.

Eddie Nketiah put them three goals up right at the start of the second half and Gabriel Martinelli got in on the act after Kaoru Mitoma pulled one back.

Evan Ferguson’s first Premier League goal was too little, too late as the leaders extended their winning run to five top-flight games despite a late rally from Brighton that saw Mitoma have a goal ruled out.

Saka got Arsenal off to a dream start, taking a great touch before calmly finishing with his left foot from inside the penalty area after Martinelli’s shot deflected into his path.

Odegaard doubled the Gunners’ lead six minutes before the break, drilling a shot into the ground with his left foot and up into the back of the net when Brighton failed to clear Saka’s corner.

The Seagulls were caught out again just under two minutes into the second half, when Robert Sanchez saved Martinelli’s strike from a tight angle but the alert Nketiah was on hand to tuck home from close range.

Mitoma reduced the deficit with a neat right-foot finish after he was picked out by a clever reverse pass from Pascal Gross 64 minutes in, but Martinelli restored Arsenal’s three-goal advantage six minutes later.

Odegaard was the architect, setting the winger clear with a magnificent first-time pass and Martinelli raced away before poking the ball under Sanchez with his right foot.

Ferguson took advantage of some poor defending from William Saliba to nip in and score a second Brighton goal, with Mitoma denied a double when he found the back of the net only for a VAR check to show he was offside as Arsenal held on.

What does it mean? Gunners continue to fire after rivals slip up

Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Everton and a stalemate between Newcastle and Leeds United earlier opened the door for the leaders to give themselves some breathing space.

They made no mistake, raising hopes they can be crowned champions of England for the first time since 2004.

Brighton put up a fight in an entertaining contest and Arteta would not be happy with some sloppy defending in the second half, but no side has been seven points clear at the start of a year and not been crowned champions.

Saka continues to shine

Saka has now scored six goals and provided as many assists in the top flight this season, having also showed his class for England in the World Cup.

Only Erling Haaland (24), Ivan Toney (15) and Harry Kane (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this season than the Gunners winger.

An Ode to Gunners skipper

Odegaard was outstanding in the middle of the park, scoring one goal and setting up Martinelli with a sublime defence-splitting pass from inside his own half.

The Norway midfielder created three chances as he made Arsenal tick in another influential display.

Key Opta Stats:

– Arsenal scored in the opening two minutes of both halves in a single Premier League game for the first time since December 2013 versus Hull City.
– Saka scored Arsenal’s earliest away goal in the Premier League since May 2013, when Theo Walcott netted after just 20 seconds against QPR.
– Odegaard has been involved in 12 goals in his last 13 league appearances (7 goals, 5 assists). He has had a hand in more top-flight goals this season (12 in 15 apps) than in the entirety of 2021-22 (11 in 36).
– Nketiah has scored 10 goals in his last 16 starts for Arsenal in all competitions, netting in each of his last three starts for the Gunners.
– Brighton have lost three of their last five Premier League home games (W1 D1), having gone unbeaten in their previous seven before this run.

What’s next?

The Gunners are at home to third-placed Newcastle in their first game of 2023 on Tuesday, when Brighton travel to Everton.

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